Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Visiting Friends

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit some of the families I had
met last year on our week long building project in Khor Virap. Three
of the houses were on the same street and the families were all close
friends. We enjoyed our time in this tight nit community very much,
and the families appreciated our help as well.
I met with the first family and had coffee and looked through the
house. It was such an improvement to when we left, interestingly
almost everything was new except their kitchen cabinets which aren't
usually included in the habitat house cost. They didn't even have a
kitchen sink yet. They said that after this next harvest they would
have cabinets and a sink. Serop also just had a hernia surgery which
has limited a lot of his recent work. Despite these small obstacles
the family thanks God everyday for habitat's interest free loans, and
A small note about these interest free loans, donor around the world
give money to habitat international and they in-turn distribute this
money to the local habitat affiliates. There has been controversy
over Habitat International's new policy to charge interest
percentages, on the loans to keep up with inflation and their motto
that a house builds a house. Affiliates like Habitat Armenia face
disaffiliation with habitat international and a loss of their assets
and supporters. After talking at length with many of the staff and
homeowners, it looks like Armenia Habitat will hold out until the
bitter end in-order to provide interest free loans. As they have been
put on probation and the flow of funds has been stopped as of the end
of last year, the first round of layoffs happened and salaries will be
reduced this month. The habitat staff here is committed to their
original vision of, of providing actual homes to those people most
affected by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and those still
reeling from the affects of the earthquake in 1988. Habitat
International is attempting to reach more families by working on
smaller projects or building homes room by room.
Reconciliation in this situation is something that you all could lift
up in your prayer times, and now back to the village...
As we left Serops house, Sevadad, the neighbor across the street,
brought us into his house, after explaining we didn't have a lot of
time and we just had coffee, we settled on bread and fresh home made
yogurt and cheese, with toasts of his best cognac. He is a very happy
man now even though they are still all sleeping in the one room that
they are able to heat with the small wood stove. They say gas is
coming in a month or so, just in time for summer, ha, ha. The family
is very happy now, I was both honored and amazed that the photos I
left this family last year comprised almost half of all the photos
they owned! This was the first time that I toasted and did not drink,
mainly because I was driving and we were just stopped at a check point
on the way to the village.
About the check point, we got flagged over by a very serious military
officer, not the local police, I produced my documents and he asked to
open the back of the niva to check out empty cargo area. He then
insisted that I have my drivers license translated into Armenian, to
which I explained how the international driver's permit worked and
that it was written in Russian. He had never seen one before but was
glad once he figured it out, we left laughing and smiling. Not
knowing where we are going, I rolled the window down, and as he was
leaving I called out "Aper" which means brother. This is the common
greeting for asking some one for directions, but as soon as I said it
my cousin hit my leg hard and said "NO! He is a 4 star captain, you
should say Baron Capitan (Captain Sir). He graciously gave us
directions and sent us on our way, I don't think he heard the "Aper"
That day my cousin Vram and I were offered coffee at 6 different
places 8 if you count the place we went twice and the place we stayed
at for three hours and were offered lunch too.

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